Hello River City— As you know, the struggles of these past few weeks have once again ripped open the deep wounds of historical racism and oppression in our country. The recent grand jury decisions to choose to not indict the officers in the murders of Mike Brown and Eric Garner have become symbolic of the countless unnecessary murders of many others by law enforcement officers.
As River City leaders (staff and elders), we have been having a nearly constant conversation as to what it looks like during a time like this to mourn and grieve alongside of our brothers and sisters. At times like this I am extremely grateful to be part of a multicultural community, but also extremely aware of how sensitive and fragile a time this is.
The harsh and unfortunate reality is that this recent spate of incidents is symptomatic of how Black life is often viewed within our country’s history. This is a reality that our African American brothers and sisters have dealt with for some time. Like Abel’s blood crying from the ground, the time we are in creates an opportunity for the rest of our multicultural body to join in the lament. The groans for justice and equality are loud, clear, and necessary.
To that end, our leadership team has prayerfully asked God to guide our multicultural community as we mourn the deaths of Mike Brown, Eric Garner and countless others. We are looking for ways to acknowledge collectively that #BlackLivesMatter, and share that the church should not and will not remain silent while murder is becoming acceptable in America.
To that end, we are going to really change things up this coming Sunday. I will give more details below, but the broad summary is this: we are going to have a short gathering at our normal time of 10:00 a.m. that will last for about thirty minutes. Then we are going to carpool and head to Lawndale to join a prayer vigil that four churches have already organized on Ogden Avenue.
The two churches that organized this vigil are both dear friends of ours: Lawndale Community Church, pastored by Coach Gordon, and Harmony Baptist Church, pastored by James Brooks. We feel very thankful these strong and enduring relationships, and are grateful for the way they have invited us into their collective lament.
If there were a single word that would describe what we hope to invite you into this weekend, it would be that of a wake. A wake is a ceremony associated with death, and is often a social rite, which highlights the idea that the loss is one of a social group and affects that group as a whole.
Whether you are confused by the circumstances or still don’t understand, it doesn’t change the fact that once again another life has been taken – too many lives have been taken. Lives created in the image of God. Lives that Jesus Christ died for. The death of one human being reverberates throughout the Kingdom of God, and it takes on even greater significance when we remember what this represents for our historical struggle. The only possible way to respond to that is through lament. Nobody is exempt form this lament, and nobody is excluded from this lament.
This Sunday is not a time to galvanize or plan or come up with an action. It is a time of lament. It is a time of mourning those who have been lost. It is a time of honoring the larger loss that comes with these deaths. It is a time to listen – to stand in community with those who are hurting. It is an opportunity to show up and be silent, and to allow our Black brothers and sisters to lead, and to own the space that we are joining.
Here is the plan for the day:
Sunday, December 7, 2014
10:00 – 10:30 a.m.: Church service at River City. This will be family style and will be a time of worship and lament.
10:30 – 10:50 a.m.: We will organize a carpool and head to Harmony Baptist Church in Lawndale (1908 S Millard Ave). Pastor James Brooks is a good friend of many at our church, and he is also the Director of Spiritual Formation at Lawndale Christian Center, where many RC3 people work. He is very excited to have River City join their congregation for a few minutes before joining the prayer vigil.
10:50 – 11:10 a.m.: Worship and lament with the Harmony Baptist Church community
11:10 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.: The prayer vigil is going to meet up with Harmony in front of their building, and we will head out and join them at this time.
11:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.: Head back to River City
12:00 p.m.: We will have a communal meal together, and three of our leaders (Antoine Taylor, Aaron Eddy, Keith Johnson) will create a space for ongoing conversation, prayer, and lament
One final note, and this is for parents: We realize that this is a heavy Sunday, as would be expected when something feels like a wake. If you are struggling with how to talk to your kids about this or how to process it as a family, we would love to dialogue further with you.
-Pastor Daniel Hill